Thursday, October 28, 2010

poverty is ugly; injustice sucks

I've been listening to one of the audios from Urbana '09, a roundtable about intentional Christian communities living among those who are poor around the world. The voices in the roundtable are from folks who are from many nationalities, living in many different locations, both in the U.S. and abroad.

One of the contributors is at one point speaking to the group of college students, young adults, addressing that they will soon be asked to consider making a 1-2 year commitment to serving among the poor somewhere in the world. Here's a paraphrase of what he told them:

"If you go for a year or two, have the humility to say, 'I'm going on an exposure or learning experience'; have the humility not to say, 'I'm going on a short-tem mission trip' - Don't go and say, 'I'm going for a year or two to impact the poor' because honestly, it's more about you than the poor. And that's not bad; that's good, that's needed.
But think beyond that. We need people to say 'I want to to do this for the long haul.'
Living in the slums is hard; poverty is ugly; injustice sucks."

It's more about you than the poor. That's not an easy description to hear of our short-term ventures. He goes on to explain himself more fully, that if there are good communities, churches, systems, etc. in place, then the 3, 4, 5 people you touch might go on to really experience true life change. And that is good. He isn't saying that we will not have impact; he is asking us to reconsider what impact we imagine we're having and to be honest about how much of our experience is about shaping ourselves.

But recognize that the long haul is what we need. It's very easy to "go" but it is another thing to "stay."

Finally, another voice from the roundtable offered to us this important thing:

"We need to be willing to live to be forgotten."

Monday, October 25, 2010

community: discoveries and questions

During this past week, even the past month, I've learned much about myself; we all have. With 5 adults and 3 children currently living under one roof, the holy and the terrible are more easily recognizable.

We've discovered that one bathroom can go a long way, that dishes need to be washed often, and things will undoubtedly be dirtier with three chlidren, all under the age of six. We've discovered that life is complicated, honesty is valuble, and that answers lead to more questions. Most importantly, we've discovered that it is absolutely necessary to be the very presence of Jesus to our neighbors and friends, wherever we are. We love, serve, and follow a Living God, not a faraway god who pays no attention to us. Yet many will never know he is Living because we have not embodied Him.

And the questions are where we are now. Never before have welcomed this many people at one time into our home, particularly in "crisis" mode. But without these new questions, we wouldn't be pushed to seek answers, resolutions, or at least a less destructive path for the next time (not that this path has been destructive; it has bestowed much peace on our new friends).

How much space do you really need? Where can we go for rest and quiet? What time should "quiet hours" begin in the house? What spaces are private and what spaces are communal? Should everyone be held to a general standard of cleanliness, even in their own sleeping spaces?

This is just a short list of questions, ones that, no matter how petty they seem are nonetheless important to the life of our house, one where hospitality is central, humanity is honored, and rest is a necessity, lest our flames die out before they've even scorched the wick.

Pray for us; indeed, we need you to speak into us!

Finally, an encouragement, a "what it takes" for the weeks ahead:

The holiness we need [a "spirituality fit for the margins"] is
simultaneously strong and tender. It is a holiness of heart that can
experience genuine horror at evil, but also see human beings
for what God intended them to be.
It is a holiness that trusts God for redemption
and therefore can sustain hope.
(p. 125, "Friendship at the Margins,"
by Christine D. Pohl and Chris Heuertz)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Matthew 25: we will keep this before us

Matthew 25: 34-40, to be exact...

"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me some food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'

And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

And you probably know the rest...

How can it be so easy to think first and mostly only of ourselves; likewise, how can it be so easy to overlook everyone else?

Have mercy on us, Lord!

**note added, 10/25/10**

See this brief reflection on Matthew 25 from "Friendship at the Margins", by Christine Pohl and Chris Heuertz.

"When we recognize the significance of Jesus' words in Matthew 25 that inasmuch as we have welcomed 'the least of these' we have welcomed him, we begin to understand the extraordinary kind of identification and oneness available to us. As we love and live among those most likely to be overlooked--those who are poor, hungry, despised, imprisoned or sick--we find ourselves in intimate relationship with Jesus." (p. 122)

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Perhaps it is of no surprise to you, but this I've found to be true: we mostly come to friendship on our own terms.

But what about those, "Hey! You too?!" moments, where you suddenly discover the spark of your friendship. Your iPod (or CD player for us old schoolers) has 75% of the same music; you dream of living in all the same places; and you are addicted to the Office and that new show, Parenthood.

I do love these friendships! How, then, could this springing up of friendship be "on our own terms" if we didn't even plan it?

We're drawn to people with the same interests, the same lifestyles. And if not the same, then people who we think are cool, those that we get "friend crushes" on (and I loudly speak for myself here!) I find myself constantly saying, "She is very cool. I must know her."

But with whom should we be seeking friendship? Those like us? Those on the margins of society? Those who might need us for our transportation, checkbook, and listening ear? Those who keep us away from a dinner with other friends because they need to get the grocery store?

My heart weeps at the friendships I keep on my terms, and my eyes have seen a much truer picture of friendship...

"...and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself."